The quaint notion of controlling one’s own life and death

nursing home handsOn Dec. 31, 2009, Montana’s Supreme Court issued a ruling that addressed the question of whether the state’s constitution guaranteed terminally ill patients a right to lethal prescription medication from their physicians.  The court stated that while the state’s Constitution did not guarantee a right to physician-assisted suicide, there was “nothing in Montana Supreme Court precedent or Montana statutes indicating that physician aid in dying is against public policy. Representative Krayton Kerns (R-Laurel)  hopes to change that with HB 505, a bill which “clarifies” the law and ensures that physicians who assist their terminally ill patients in dying with dignity are imprisoned and fined.  Although aid in dying isn’t expressly illegal in Montana, under the provisions of this legislation, anyone who actually assists in any manner with a terminally ill patient’s decision to end their life on their terms will be prosecuted   According to a Montana board member of the National Right To  Life, physicians who respect their patients’ autonomy, including their wish to end their suffering, will be charged with homicide.

Note: The “aid” component of physician aid-in-dying involves only the dispensing of the medication. the patient decides if and when to self-administer the medication.

Perhaps your religious beliefs  preclude you from ever choosing to end your own suffering.   That is entirely understandable, but surely you aren’t arrogant enough to think that your personal religious beliefs bestow upon you the power to decide for another, who holds different beliefs, whether his life is worth living?   Should those people be prohibited from dying with dignity purely because YOUR religious beliefs oppose such decisions? We aren’t talking about the unborn, who as some claim “cannot advocate for themselves”, nor are we talking about forcing anyone to end their own life.  We are talking about terminally ill, adult human beings of sound mind who desire the right to live and die on their own terms. How is prolonged suffering  a pro-life view?

Who do you trust with your important health decisions, your physician or your legislature?  Tell your legislators, especially members of the House Judiciary Committee not to interfere with doctor-patient relationships.   A peaceful and dignified exit is an option we should all have.  Recent polls indicate a majority of Americans support allowing physician aid-in-dying,  let’s kill this bill in committee before it embarrasses Montanans. Giving patients a choice benefits those who desire it while care of those who object to it is not affected in any way.  It seems the Montana GOP is using this legislative session to further indulge the cumbrous embrace of the big government nanny.

In related news, SB 220, a bill establishing procedures and regulations to Montanans’ end of life decisions was tabled last week in the Senate Judiciary Committee.